Motivating Behaviour Changes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Using-Language-to-Motivate-Behaviour-ChangesOne of the greatest challenges for nutritional therapists is finding ways in which to help and encourage people to change their behaviours. The science behind a healthy lifestyle is clearly not enough, if it were as simple as making people aware of facts the current obesity crisis would be simple to solve. World Resources Institute’s Better Buying Lab have written an in depth article into how language and descriptors have been successfully used to motivate people to try a more plant based diet, much of what they have highlighted can be harnessed and used to aid us in nutritional therapy clinics.


Historically a mainly plant based diet has been the norm in most cultures, but with the growth of industrial societies, meat has gone from an occasional treat to a daily expectation. #Vegetarianism can be a hard sell to the modern world, with #meat one of the most favoured foods and the centre of the main meal. Intensive meat production has a huge negative impact on #climate change and people are starting to become more aware of its #unsustainability, coupled with the many #health benefits of a plant-rich diet there is a growing need to make the movement towards plants becoming the dominant component of the mainstream diet. How do we go about this? The Better Buying Lab’s research suggests that the best strategy is to change the language we use to describe plant-rich food.


How we describe foods is key to how people perceive them. The research shows that language that needs to be avoided include #Meat-free, #vegan, #vegetarian and ‘Healthy Restrictive’, instead, restaurants using words like ‘#provenance’, ‘flavour’ and describing foods by their look and feel saw plant-rich  meals go up in sales. For many it seems the word ‘Vegan’ means ‘different from me’ and this can alienate consumers. Food is part of forming our social identity, “in groups” are created of like-minded people, those seen as the “out group’, in this case the vegans and vegetarians, are seen as having less favourable behaviours. There is a growing vegan-omnivore conflict with hostility from extremes on both sides.  Whilst a sign such as a ‘V’ or ‘Vg’ is needed on a menu, specifically mentioning vegan or vegetarian can be off putting. Studies have shown that when a menu shows a list of all options rather than dividing into meat and vegan options, plant-based dishes see a rise in sales.


The majority of people want an enjoyable, taste rich, filling experience when they eat, unfortunately when meals are labelled as ‘healthy’ or ‘low-fat’ peoples enjoyment of the meal has been shown to be reduced, and in restaurants they are far more unlikely to pick such a meal. Focusing instead on describing delicious flavours and where the food has been grown and by whom can really boost sales of plant rich foods. A 2018 study from Stanford University confirmed that when ‘indulgent’ descriptions were used, e.g. “Rich and Buttery Roasted Sweet Corn”, diners were 41% more likely to choose them than when identically prepared dishes were labelled with healthy-restrictive labels. Whilst consumer habits can depend on a variety of demographic factors there is huge potential being shown for the way in which we can use language to encourage people to make food choices that can really improve their health.


Read More

Previous Post
Antibiotics and the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Next Post
Cognitive Bias

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed